John Lennon’s influence on the music world cannot be understated. His death was a shock to the industry, but his legacy lives on through his timeless music, and through the tributes paid to him by his friends and former bandmates. Through their own grief, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney found solace in the music they created, continuing to honor and remember their friend and musical genius.
On December 8, 1980, the world lost one of the greatest musical icons of all time: John Lennon. The former Beatle was assassinated outside his apartment building in New York City, sending shockwaves throughout the music industry and beyond. Many musicians paid tribute to Lennon shortly after his death, but for his former bandmates and friends, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney, it took some time to process the loss. Eventually, they each honored their fallen friend in their own way, through music.
Here are three tracks each ex-Beatle performed as a tribute to John Lennon:
‘All Those Years Ago’ — George Harrison
George Harrison’s “All Those Years Ago” was released as a single in 1981 as part of his album “Somewhere in England”. Originally written for Ringo Starr, the track was returned to Harrison after Starr found the lyrics unsuitable and out of his range. Following John Lennon’s death, Harrison made changes to the lyrics, and the song became a tribute to his former bandmate. The song marked one of the rare occasions where the three remaining Beatles played together, with Ringo Starr on drums and Paul and Linda McCartney providing backing vocals. The song was a commercial success, peaking at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. In a 1987 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Harrison acknowledged the difficulty of performing the song, given the emotional weight of Lennon’s passing.
‘I Call Your Name’ — Ringo Starr
“I Call Your Name” is a song written by John Lennon before The Beatles were formed, and it was originally given to Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, a band also managed by Brian Epstein. However, Lennon was dissatisfied with their arrangement of the track and decided to record his own version, which was eventually released on the Long Tall Sally EP in 1964. A decade after Lennon’s passing and on what would have been his 50th birthday, Ringo Starr revived the song for a tribute television performance. He was joined by an all-star band consisting of Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Joe Walsh, and Jim Keltner.
‘Here Today’ — Paul McCartney
McCartney’s “Here Today” is a track from his 1982 album Tug of War, and it was written as a fictional conversation between himself and John Lennon, his former Beatles bandmate. The song was penned to express what McCartney would have said to Lennon had he still been alive. While the two had a brief falling out after the group’s breakup, they reconciled before Lennon’s death. McCartney stated in a BBC interview that he would never have expressed his love to Lennon in person, so the song allowed him to convey his true emotions. The lyrics convey a sense of longing and grief, with McCartney admitting that writing the song was a very emotional experience. He added that having a conversation with Lennon in the song brought him some comfort, allowing him to feel as if he was with Lennon again, and able to express his love for him, which he never did while Lennon was alive.